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Banu Valladares to Head SonEdna

Banu Valladares

Banu Valladares

Banu Valladares, former Literature Director for the North Carolina Arts Council, has taken the job of Executive Director with SonEdna, a literary arts organization based in Charleston, Mississippi.

Prior to joining the NCAC in 2007, Valladares served at the Durham Arts Council as the director of arts in education and community partnerships. She taught writing at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and for seven years, Valladares was a teaching artist, conducting local and international long-term residencies in public schools integrating creative writing into the curriculum. She is a member of the North Carolina Writers’ Network and has published a bilingual book of poetry called Gypsy Child (CPCC Press, 2005).

SonEdna was founded in 2006 by Myrna Colley-Lee to celebrate and support the literary arts and writers of all backgrounds. The organization presents readings by established and popular authors and provides space for writers to create new work. It also partners with schools and other organizations throughout the Delta to provide workshops that enrich the lives of the region’s youth. SonEdna believes that people empowered through the literary arts discern, decide, and design with greater authority, clarity, understanding, and compassion.

“Banu will be an excellent addition to our community and state,” said Colley-Lee, “having been deeply-involved with arts-based community development at the state and local levels in North Carolina.”

Charleston, MS, is located in the Mississippi Delta and has a long history as a nurturing ground for writers. For the full press release, click here.

Going to be near Charleston, MS, on Thursday, July 31? Why not drop by the “Meet the Director” reception and congratulate Banu on her new post?

As far as the North Carolina Writers’ Network is concerned, we’re going to miss Banu—a lot. But we wish her all the best. Godspeed and good luck!

The A. R. Ammons Literary Scholarship

Southeastern Community College in Whiteville, North Carolina, has established the A. R. Ammons Literary Scholarship.

A.R. Ammons, an inductee of the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, was born in Columbus County in 1926. He has been described as a major American poet in the tradition of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman. Generally opting for free forms, his poetry focused on man’s relationship to nature, the problems of identity, permanence and change, and the processes of nature.

A two-time winner of the National Book Award, plus the Bollingen Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, Ammons published nearly thirty volumes of poetry. He taught poetry at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, from 1964 until he retired as the Goldwin Smith Professor Emeritus of Poetry in 1998.

SCC’s Williamson Library houses the A.R. Ammons Collection, and Columbus County sponsors the A.R. Ammons Poetry Competition each year.

SCC is still seeking gifts to establish a $30,000 endowment. To contribute, please send your contribution to:

Sue Hawks
Executive Dean of Institutional Advancement
P.O. Box 151
Whiteville, NC 28472

Indicate that your gift is for the Ammons Scholarship, which is tax-deductible as allowed by law.

Questions about the endowment can be directed to Ms. Hawks at 910-642-7141, ext. 320.

Ed Southern to Visit Western NC

Valley IBy Ed Southern, Executive Director, North Carolina Writers’ Network

I will be in the western part of our state next week and will hold two public meetings for Network members:

  • 2 P.M., Thursday, July 24, at City Lights Bookstore, 3 East Jackson St., Sylva
  • 6 P.M., Thursday, July 24, at Kelsey’s Restaurant, 840 Spartanburg Highway, Hendersonville (for dinner, please RSVP to Henderson County Regional Rep Pat Vestal at

All Network members are welcome, but I especially hope to see members from our NetWest counties (Clay, Cherokee, Graham, Macon, Swain, Jackson, Transylvania, Haywood, and Henderson, as well as adjacent counties in SC, GA, and TN).

I look forward to seeing y’all, and answering your questions about the Network, NetWest, and . . . you know, anything else that’s been on writers’ minds lately.

Valerie Macon Resigns as Poet Laureate

Valerie Macon has resigned her appointment as North Carolina’s Poet Laureate, effective immediately.

Governor Pat McCrory appointed Ms. Macon less than one week ago. In her resignation letter, Ms. Macon said she felt the negative attention was distracting from the “Office of Poet Laureate.” She also said:

I would like to encourage everyone to read and write poetry. They do not need a list of prestigious publishing credits or a collection of accolades from impressive organizations—just the joy of words and appreciate of self-expression.

We couldn’t agree more, and wish Ms. Macon the best in all her writing endeavors and in her admirable community service.

No word yet on when a new Poet Laureate will be appointed, or whether the governor’s office will seek input from the North Carolina Arts Council, as it has in the past.

Valerie Macon is North Carolina’s New Poet Laureate

By Ed Southern, Executive Director, North Carolina Writers’ Network

Valerie Macon

The North Carolina Writers’ Network stands for writing as “everybody’s art.” In our mission statement, we affirm that “writing is necessary both for self-expression and a healthy community, that well-written words can connect people across time and distance, and that the deeply satisfying experiences of writing and reading should be available to everyone.” We are egalitarian, democratic with a lower-case “d,” and anti-elitist.

We stand for excellence, for preserving and promoting the best of North Carolina writing, for continuing and strengthening and deepening North Carolina’s remarkable literary tradition. We believe that fine writers can come from Duke and Oxford like Reynolds Price, or from the Marines and carnival sideshows like Tim McLaurin. We believe fine writing can come from anyone, any place, any press or publisher, including yourself.

Some writers publish more work than others, sell more copies and make more money than others, win more awards, get more glowing reviews, tell more gripping stories, construct more elegant sentences, use more evocative words. Some writers are better than others.

That does not cheapen or negate the work, the effort, or the passion any writer puts into their words; he or she still is just as much a writer as any other. Whatever our level of skill or experience, education or fame, we are all writers as long as we’re writing, all lovers of the written word and what it can do, all fighting the good fight for the caring and thoughtful use of the language.

I do not know Valerie Macon or her work, but I know people who do, and they describe her as a kind and caring person who is well-liked and active in Fuquay-Varina, where she has done great work with and for the homeless population.

I do not know why Governor McCrory’s office selected Valerie to be North Carolina’s new poet laureate. I do not even know how the governor’s office went about selecting her out of all the poets now writing in North Carolina.

I do know the governor’s office chose to make the appointment without the usual (and public) nomination, selection, and recommendation process conducted by the North Carolina Arts Council.

I do know that bypassing this process—bypassing not so much the North Carolina Arts Council, as the people of the state—devalues the state’s literary community and tradition, the poet laureate position, and—through no fault of her own—Valerie’s tenure in the position.

Dannye Romine Powell, for the Charlotte Observer, and David Menconi, for the Raleigh News & Observer, have covered well the announcement and the reactions to it, and I recommend their articles and blog posts to everyone (full disclosure: Dannye and David are members of the Network). Even they, though, have not gotten answers to the two biggest questions remaining: why did the governor’s office ignore the traditional and offered help of the state Arts Council, and how did they come to select Valerie Macon?

Jaki Shelton Green

Jaki Shelton Green

Whatever the intrinsic quality of Valerie’s poetry, she does not have a body of work comparable in size or recognition to those of our past laureates. Those laureates, too, all were teachers of long service and high renown, and were well-known to poets and readers across the state and beyond.

The “selection criteria” that, until recently, were posted on the Arts Council’s website (Menconi posted them on the “Under the Dome” blog) called for “literary excellence,” “influence on other writers,” and “statewide, national or international reputation.” On Friday, Valerie’s website—which also has come down recently—said she has two books of poetry, both self-published through Old Mountain Press. Both books, the site said, were nominees for the Pushcart Prize, but Pushcart Prizes are not given to book-length works, and anyone can nominate any work for a Pushcart.

Really, though, Valerie’s resume is less important than the way she became laureate. The North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame this fall will induct four outstanding poets (Betty Adcock, Ronald Bayes, Jaki Shelton Green, and Shelby Stephenson), but if any of them had been appointed poet laureate in such a sudden and apparently arbitrary way, we would be right to object.

The traditional nomination process allowed any and all North Carolinians to suggest poets they thought deserved to be our state’s “ambassador” of poetry and the written word. Those poets were told they had been nominated, and, if they accepted the nomination, were asked to provide work samples, lists of publications and awards, references and recommendations, a statement of what they would hope to accomplish as laureate: in other words, to create a public record of the reasons they should be the poet laureate.

The Arts Council then brought together North Carolinians—poets, professors, editors, journalists, even (once, at least) an executive director—representing as much of the state’s population as possible to discuss and decide which of these nominees the council should recommend to the governor, who—no offense to poets or poetry—presumably has more pressing matters at hand, and probably, sadly, is not as up-to-date on contemporary poetry as he or she should be.

Choosing to ignore this process means choosing to ignore the people of the state. It does not mean that Valerie will not perform her laureate duties well. It does mean that Valerie enters her laureateship in a difficult and unfair position, deprived of the consensus and support that the customary selection process would have built.

Joseph Bathanti

Joseph Bathanti

I hope Valerie will be an outstanding poet laureate. I hope she will use the laureate’s position and platform to increase and expand her work with the homeless, as she has said she plans. I hope she will be as effective in those efforts as Joseph Bathanti has been in his work with returning veterans. I hope the Network will be able to help her, as our past laureates have pledged to, in that or any other productive mission she decides to undertake.

I hope that the governor’s office will remember this experience, will see the value of the laureate position, and will accept the help of the North Carolina Arts Council when selecting the next.

I hope that all this will show others—and remind us—how much our poet laureate matters, how much poetry matters, how much the written word matters, to so many: to those fighting the good fight, with whatever weapons they have, and to those who don’t realize the fight’s being fought.

Here’s to the Writingest State!

At this year’s Squire Summer Writing Residency, registrants got to know one another by collaborating on new stanzas for North Carolina’s State Toast.

North Carolina is the only U.S. state with an official toast. Here’s the first stanza of the original:

Here’s to the land of the long leaf pine,
The summer land where the sun doth shine,
Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great,
Here’s to “Down Home,” the Old North State!

And here’s what Squire Summer Writing Residency attendees penned:

Here’s to the land of the ocean’s roar,
Where bicycle mechanics rise and soar,
Where Wolfe and Sandburg came to create,
So, Tar Heels, toast the Old North State!

Here’s to the land where the wind blows fair,
Home to Hatteras light and Virginia Dare,
Where the people work hard—early and late,
On the Outer Banks of the Old North State!

Here’s to the sea where fishermen toil,
The inland palace found Tryon disloyal,
Where potters and weavers and writers create,
And in summer the Yankees still swarm the Old North State!

Here’s to the land where authors blossom,
Huler, Stephenson, Kenan—awesome!
Where writers gather behind Peace’s gate,
The writingest land, the Old North State!

Here’s to the land where the keyboards pound,
Where the spouses complain of the ceaseless sound,
Where submissions are swift, rejections late,
To the writingest scribes of the Old North State!

(Scott Huler, who lead the workshop in creative nonfiction and who knows a thing or two about North Carolina’s State Toast, was so moved by the program he wrote the final stanza all by himself….)

SIBA Announces 2014 Book Award Winners

Cathy Smith Bowers

Cathy Smith Bowers

The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance has announced their 2014 Book Award Winners. Two North Carolina residents and a North Carolina-based press are among those honored.

Cathy Smith Bowers, of Charlotte, won the Poetry category for The Collected Poems of Cathy Smith Bowers (Press 53). Bowers was North Carolina’s sixth Poet Laureate, 2010-2012. Press 53 is based in Winston-Salem.

Chapel Hill’s Sarah Dessen won the Young Adult category for The Moon and More. She is the author of eleven novels, and a motion picture based on her first two books, titled How to Deal, was released in 2003.

The 2014 SIBA Book Award winners are:

Children’s Winner: The Girl from Felony Bay by J.E. Thompson (Walden Pond Press)
Cooking Winner: Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey: Recipes from My Three Favorite Food Groups and Then Some by John Currence (Andrews McMeel)
Fiction Winner: Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall (Gallery Books)
Nonfiction Winner: Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink (Crown)
Poetry Winner: The Collected Poems of Cathy Smith Bowers by Cathy Smith Bowers (Press 53)
Young Adult Winner: The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen (Viking Juvenile)

Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen

So, what’s SIBA’s 2014 Book Award all about?

Each year, hundreds of booksellers across the South vote on their favorite “handsell” books of the year. These are the “southern” books they have most enjoyed selling to customers; the ones that they couldn’t stop talking about. The SIBA Book Award was created to recognize great books of southern origin.

For more information about SIBA and the winning books, click here.

See Yourself on the Silver Screen

From the Council for the Arts (Jacksonville/Onslow):

Want to be in Nicholas Sparks’ The Longest Ride movie? Now is your chance! You will be helping the Council for the Arts!

The Longest Ride will be filming a rodeo scene in Jacksonville, NC, the last three days in July (Tuesday, July 29, Wednesday, July 30, and Thursday, July 31).

The production company will be donating $20 per person per day to the Council for the Arts!

We ask that you email or call us with the following information:

Please include a name, phone number, email, and age category (adult, teen, or child), so that the production company can contact you with the details of filming (where to go, what to bring, etc.).

*Children should be older than 10 years old, since this will be an all-day commitment (12-15 hours).

Please send your contact info to: Connie Wenner at

If you have any questions, give us a call at 910-455-9840 (Council for the Arts) Please specify which day you would like to work.

NC Authors Among Summer OKRA Picks

The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance has announced their Summer 2014 Okra Picks—the best Southern lit, “fresh off the vine.”

The short list includes the following North Carolina authors:

For a complete list of the Summer 2014 Okra Picks, click here.

The Okra Picks are a dozen fresh titles chosen each season that SIBA Indie Bookstores want to handsell. These books should be Southern in nature but can cover any genre, not just fiction. Southerners love their writers, and we want to be at the forefront of bringing them a strong selection of southern titles not to be missed each season.

For more information about the Okra Picks and The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, click here.

Library Journal’s SELF-e Launches in Beta Libraries

From BiblioLabs:

In advance of the 2014 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference, Library Journal (LJ) and BiblioBoard are pleased to announce the launch of beta versions of the LJ SELF-e platform and curation service at the following library systems: Los Angeles Public Library, San Diego County Public Library, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Arizona State Library through Reading Arizona; and statewide in Massachusetts through the Massachusetts eBook Project.

LJ’s SELF-e, announced in May 2014, connects self-published authors with public libraries and their patrons—both locally and nationally. Using the SELF-e submission portal, authors in the beta libraries’ communities can submit their self-published ebook(s) for display and patron access across that state. Additionally, they have the opportunity to opt-in to allow LJ to evaluate and select titles for inclusion in curated genre collections that participating public libraries will make available to their patrons all over the United States. SELF-e submissions will be accepted on a rolling basis, with the first collections set to be released later this year.

The submission portal is branded by the author’s local library. Each state will come up with its own title for the Module with its state’s authors. For example, Arizona has chosen the title “One Book Arizona” for their statewide Module celebrating the work of local authors. SELF-e, a royalty-free service, appeals to writers looking for the next-generation discovery service for ebooks in libraries.

LJ is thrilled to embark on this project. “We’ve been assessing the self-published title landscape for the past three years, and it has been frustrating to see the gap remain unbridged between self-published authors, public libraries, and their patrons,” says Ian Singer, publisher at Library Journal. “We didn’t want to be another fee-based review service for self-published titles, as that’s not providing a solution to authors or libraries. We’ve been looking for a way to connect the two for their common audience, the reader. LJ’s unsurpassed expertise in reviewing titles—which is critical for library book selection—coupled with the BiblioBoard platform is a compelling solution to unite all three.”

Mitchell Davis, founder and Chief Business Officer of BiblioLabs, is eager for libraries to begin using the system. “This local library aspect is the part of SELF-e that accepts every author, no matter what self-publishing service they use or whether or not their book is accepted into the LJ-curated Module. It’s a space to celebrate the state’s local talent and enhance the community of a region’s authors and readers. We’re honored to be working with such great libraries for the initial release of the service.”

SELF-e was inspired in part by Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL), one of the libraries now previewing the feature. CCPL librarian Sari Feldman, president-elect of the American Library Association, shares Davis’s excitement about the project’s launch. “As libraries evolve in the 21st century, we recognize the increasingly important role that libraries must play in advancing both reading and writing communities. CCPL is delighted to participate in the SELF-e beta program because we have been searching for an effective tool to support self-published authors as well as the community of readers who want to connect with new work.”

Los Angeles Public Library’s Catherine Royalty sees SELF-e as way to develop the library’s literary community in the digital sphere. Royalty says, “We are very excited to be partnering with Library Journal and BiblioBoard to showcase emerging self-published authors at the library. We plan to use the product to foster a community of local authorship and to provide our patrons with access to exciting new literary voices.”

After the beta period is over, the library-branded submission system and subsequent state Module will be available free to every public library that subscribes to BiblioBoard as a core part of the platform.

Founded in 1876, Library Journal is one of the oldest and most respected publications covering the library field. Over 100,000 library directors, administrators, and staff in public, academic, and special libraries read LJ. Library Journal reviews over 7,000 books, audiobooks, videos, databases, and websites annually, and provides coverage of technology, management, policy, and other professional concerns. For more information, visit

BiblioBoard is the PatronsFirst™ mobile library. The folks behind BiblioBoard are a powerful team based in Charleston, SC. They aim to transform access to information by providing a world-class user experience that thrills library patrons and is profitable for publishers. BiblioBoard is moving library content delivery into the future in a sustainable way. BiblioLabs is also a proud member of the Charleston Digital Corridor. To learn more, visit